Start No. 500 was a good one for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points leader. Matt Kenseth cruised into the history books in Sunday's SYLVANIA 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, joining Richard Petty as the only driver to ever win his 500th-career start. It was also the second straight victory in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship for Kenseth, who now leads the 10-race playoff by 14 points over teammate Kyle Busch.
It was the second consecutive 1-2 finish for Kenseth and Busch, respectively, who made Joe Gibbs Racing the first team to accomplish that in back-to-back Chase races.
"If there was ever a track where I just wanted to get through the weekend, it would be here," said Kenseth, who led a race-high 106 laps on Sunday en route to his seventh win of the season, and becomes the 12th different race winner in the last 12 Sprint Cup races in New Hampshire. "I had some anxiety about coming here, because I just have never been strong at this track."
Greg Biffle, Jimmie Johnson and Jamie McMurray round out the top-five.
It was another strong effort for Busch, who hasn't had the best history in the Chase over the last few years. But despite consecutive runner-up finishes at Chicagoland Speedway and the Magic Mile, Busch's deficit has gone from three points to eight points to 14.
"It's early, but it is nice to get a strong start," said Busch. "Matt is just executing the end of the deal, which is what you want to do. He is one of the best. He has put it all together."
Biffle's podium finish wasn't all that surprising given his history at NHMS (nine top-10s in 23 starts), but it was his first top-five finish since a win at Michigan on June 16.
"It was a good run overall. I'm excited about finishing third," said Biffle."We are happy about the whole weekend."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. led 17 laps and threatened for the lead at various other times during the race. The fan favorite couldn't steer the No. 88 back to the front at the end, however, and had to settle for sixth.
July race-winner Brian Vickers finished seventh, while Jeff Burton, Carl Edwards and Martin Truex Jr. round out the top-10.
Kenseth, the 2003 Sprint Cup champion, has certainly made some noise in the opening rounds of the Sprint Cup playoffs, becoming the first driver since Tony Stewart in 2011 to win the first two races in the Chase. But, as Biffle is well aware, a strong start is no guarantee when it comes to NASCAR's sprint to the finish.
"I won the first two Chase races (in 2008) before and didn't win the championship," said Biffle. "Anything could happen."
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